Argentina Jaguars 30-10 Namibia
Argentina Jaguars scored four tries to one to subdue a never-say-die Namibia in the opening match of the 10th World Rugby Nations Cup at the Arcul de Triumf Stadium in Bucharest.
It was the pace, the skill levels and ultimately the youthful enthusiasm of the young Jaguars, coached by Pumas legend Felipe Contepomi in his first major coaching job with an Argentine representative side, which made the difference in a lively and entertaining match.
The Jaguars started the scoring when they were awarded a penalty try by French referee Alexandre Ruiz, who was left with no option but to go under the posts after the Namibian scrum creaked and cracked under pressure. Fly-half Juan Leon Novillo completed the formalities from the kicking tee to make it 7-0 to the South Americans.
All credit to the Welwitschias - ably marshalled by veteran scrum-half Eugene Jantijes, who plays his club rugby in Bucharest for the Dinamo club - they regrouped and responded with a try from fly-half Theuns Kotze following a quick lineout move. Kotze converted his own score from an awkward angle to level matters.
Novillo’s first penalty of the match was then cancelled out by a Kotze drop goal before lively Jaguars hooker Facundo Bosch crossed for the first try from open play.
Namibia had managed to gain some form of parity in the set-piece by this stage, but it was the Jaguars who continued to look the most menacing with ball in hand. Classy midfield pairing Juan Cappiello and Joaquin Paz both crossed for second half tries to confirm victory.
“I am happy with the performance,” said Contepomi. “We took the initiative and controlled the game against a senior team that is in the RWC 2015 tournament. This is a group of young and talented players and I am very pleased with their overall contribution and the way they played. They made mistakes but that does not matter as they attacked with the ball in hand, which is all we wanted.”
Meanwhile, Namibia captain PJ van Lill was not too downhearted at the final whistle. “There is not much wrong with what we did, though tactically and technically we made a number of mistakes,” he said. “We have a lot of young players in the team who are only at the start of their international careers and they made those small errors that cost you against such quick-thinking opponents. I am not blaming them, or looking for excuses; it is a fact of life. Tactically, we tried to create fast ball from slow breakdowns which was not sensible. It was a good match and it will help us to improve for the next round.”
Romania 35-9 Spain
Florin Vlaicu once again proved his worth to Romania with a 20-point haul in the Oaks’ satisfying yet never comfortable 35-9 win over a resourceful Spain.
The 28-year-old centre is Romania’s top point scorer with 566 points and his accuracy off the kicking tee was sorely missed earlier this year when the Oaks fell to narrow defeats at the hands of both Georgia and Russia in the European Nations Cup Division 1A.
As the Romanians enter the final stages of their Rugby World Cup build-up, his role is likely to develop further, as he is playing an increasingly influential role in an ambitious game plan devised by head coach Lynn Howells.
Two Vlaicu penalties put Romania 6-0 up before Spain responded with a three-pointer of their own through Ignacio Contardi on 14 minutes.
Spain tried hard to run the ball at every opportunity, as their manager Jean Michel Aguirre, the former French full-back, had promised, but their attempts to open up the game were strangled by the dominant Romanian pack, who somehow managed to repel everything their Spanish counterparts tried to do in the scrum and loose.
A third Vlaicu penalty and the first of two tries for experienced flanker Viorel Lucaci, with Vlaicu adding the extras, ensured Romania went into half-time leading 16-3.
Spain full-back Sergi Aubanell pulled three points back shortly after the re-start only for Vlaicu to kick Romania further ahead with three penalties in the space of five minutes.
Lucaci drove over again after sustained pressure from the forwards to add further gloss to the scoreline.
The second round of the Nations Cup takes place on Wednesday, with Argentina Jaguars up against Spain followed by Romania versus Namibia.
Photo credit: Razvan Pasarica/ FRR